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Cambridge City Council Calls to Keep Democracy Center Open

The Cambridge City Council asked the Foundation for Civic Leadership to reconsider their decision to close the Democracy Center in July.
The Cambridge City Council asked the Foundation for Civic Leadership to reconsider their decision to close the Democracy Center in July. By Emily L. Ding
By Sally E. Edwards and Asher J. Montgomery, Crimson Staff Writers

The Cambridge City Council passed a policy order calling on the Foundation for Civic Leadership to reconsider their decision to indefinitely close the Democracy Center — a meeting house for activists and organizers in Harvard Square – at a meeting Tuesday morning.

The policy order, which passed unanimously, was proposed by Councilors Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, Sumbul Siddiqui, Burham Azeem and Ayesha M. Wilson. Sobrinho-Wheeler said he introduced the order to “raise up those concerns” from local activists and current tenants of the Center.

“Community members and organizations were worried about the short notice of the closure — just a couple months — scrambling to find other space,” he said.

The policy order emphasizes the important role the Center plays in providing activists and community organizations — including the police alternative Holistic Emergency Alternative Response Team — with a “space for their core operations.”

“Because of the dearth of affordable options for community meeting spaces in Cambridge and greater Boston, the closure of the Democracy Center meetinghouse would be especially challenging,” the order read.

Sue Heilman, a representative from the FCL, wrote in a statement to The Crimson that the organization “appreciates the Cambridge City Council’s interest in the Democracy Center.”

“As we explained to them and the current users of the building, we need to renovate it so it is available as a civic incubator space and meeting house in the future,” she wrote.

Siddiqui said that the policy order emphasizes how “tough it is to find space” in Cambridge’s housing market, while also recognizing the Center’s need for renovations.

“We all know that the Democracy Center is in need of renovations — so what can we do to assist some of these organizations working with the foundation?” Siddiqui said.

Councilor Joan F. Pickett echoed Siddiqui’s statement, and said that Cambridge should work to develop alternative housing options for community organizations.

“We need to consider how we can offer space, or develop space, that would be available for not-for-profits to use — because it is so difficult to get space,” she said.

The FCL — the fiscal sponsors of the Democracy Center — announced their decision for a July closure earlier this month. Despite demands from activists and organizers who use the space, FCL president Ian Simmons doubled down on the plans to close the center in a meeting with resident organizations last week. He added, however, that the space will reopen to community organizations once the renovations are completed.

As of Tuesday, nearly 400 Cambridge residents and organizers have signed onto a petition demanding the reversal of the decision to close the space, according to a press release from The Better Future Project, one of the Center’s resident organizations.

Many organizers spoke in favor of the order during the meeting, including Cambridge resident Em Spooner, who said the Center was an invaluable asset for organizers in Cambridge.

“The Democracy Center has been a crucial space for grassroots organizing as well as cultural events for the last 22 years,” she said.

—Staff writer Sally E. Edwards can be reached at sally.edwards@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @sallyedwards04 or on Threads @sally_edwards06.

—Staff writer Asher J. Montgomery can be reached at asher.montgomery@thecrimson.com Follow her on X @asherjmont or on Threads @asher_montgomery.

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